Remarks to Chatham County Board of Education

Dr. Jordan, Mr. Hamm and Members of the Board:

In the summer of 2007 I made my first presentation to the School Board to advocate for funds for the Northwood Arts Wing. I proposed that “talented students and dedicated faculty could only continue their tradition of excellence for a limited amount of time without a facility and resources to support them.” Faculty would be lured to other districts or retire and traditions wane without attention and nourishment. The board had several options, but made the bold decision to move forward and invest in Northwood.

CCS has provided an excellent facility, an arts-champion as principal, additional faculty to begin to meet the demand for this coursework, administrative positions in the county office focusing on arts education and a public stage to highlight the arts with programs like All-County Chorus, All-County Band and the Arts Extravaganza.

Each year, I come to share the good news about this remarkable program. 2012–2013, when Northwood celebrated it’s 40th Anniversary, is no exception. This year’s Annual Report touches on the myriad events that comprise the curriculum—classwork, projects, club meetings, performances, competitions, field trips, master classes, exhibitions and celebrations. Cumulatively, we know they provide a rich groundwork for our students to move into higher education. Our graduates go on to study engineering, neuroscience, and dentistry. They continue in arts education—at NC School of Design, ECU, UNC-Chapel Hill. We have high school students, college students, and graduates at the UNC School of the Arts—some recently featured in the media working on projects with their Cirque de Soleil program. Our visual arts students attend SCAD in Georgia, Pratt in Brooklyn and the School of Visual Arts in New York. We have drama students studying in Dublin this semester and a dancer at the Cornish College for the Arts in Washington. Musicians are studying instrumental music at the School of the Arts, opera at Appalachian, and Jazz Studies as a post-graduate Mancini Fellow in Miami. Alumni are working in the motion picture and advertising industries in California, in the fashion industry in Atlanta, as professional musicians here in NC, and performing with Holland American Cruise Lines.

As you think about the future, I have three recommendations …

  1. Check out ArtsEdSearch. This database of evidence-based research from the Arts Education Partnership backs up what we know anecdotally about the power of the arts to enhance educational outcomes and improve the lives of our students.
  2. This board has always had the wisdom to take the long view. From the NEA Project Entice which brought dance to Northwood in the 70s to recognition from the Kennedy Center in 2003 for Northwood’s comprehensive Arts Education program (the only one so recognized in the state that year). Consider if there is potentially a good match for a Chatham County School and the A+ Schools Program—the largest, longest running, most successful, arts-based whole-school reform effort in the nation. It’s a worthy program to consider for a system that can claim the oldest, comprehensive public school arts education program in NC.
  3. Consider undertaking A Community Audit for Arts Education: Better Schools, Better Skills, Better Communities. In November 2000, the Kennedy Center developed this tool to assist local education, community and cultural leaders in assessing the status of arts education in schools and school districts, and to encourage community partnerships to strengthen and expand arts education for all students. It is most valuable as a vehicle for encouraging conversation and community planning in support of arts education. And perhaps investigate their Any Given Child initiative.  [Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Ed. Tools & Resources.]

Thank you for your continued support. We look forward to another challenging, exciting, creative year and we hope to see you again soon at a NorthwoodArts performance.